Categories
News

When was the first UK coronavirus case?

Over recent days the mainstream media have been vying with each other to reveal the identity of the United Kingdom’d Covid-19 “patient zero”.

According to The Guardian on June 1st:

In the UK, the first confirmed cases of coronavirus came on 31 January when two Chinese nationals staying in a hotel in York tested positive. But as the crisis has rolled on, and the virus’s range of distinctive symptoms become more widely known, many – some in letters to the Guardian – have asked themselves if they or their loved ones could have had it earlier.

The article reports that:

A day before the first confirmed fatality from coronavirus outside mainland China was reported on 2 February this year, the death of the influential guitarist and musician Andy Gill was announced. The 64-year-old, who fronted the post-punk band Gang of Four, died of pneumonia after two weeks in St Thomas’ hospital in London.

The trajectory of Gill’s illness, which took medics looking after him in January by surprise, is now familiar – sudden deterioration, low oxygen levels and organ failure. He had fallen sick after his band returned from a trip to China in late November.

Then on June 8th The Sunday Times published an article by their chief foreign correspondent, Christina Lamb describing her own Covid-19 like symptoms in early January and reporting that:

“Thousands of people have emailed me with classic Covid symptoms from late December and January,” said Professor Tim Spector, a leading epidemiologist at King’s College London, who runs the Covid-19 Symptom Study app to which 3.8 million people have signed up.

“Either there was another virus behaving in a similar way which has since disappeared or these were early cases.”

If so, why was it not reflected in a spike in hospital admissions or deaths? “That’s the medical mystery,” said Spector.

There were, he said, possible explanations. “People who got it were young and healthy and didn’t transfer it to the elderly, obese and so on. Many of those early cases were skiers coming back from holidays. Or the virus was in some way different and didn’t have that final stage which attacks the immune system.

Christina points out that:

Officially, the first case involving a Briton was Steve Walsh, 53, a businessman from Hove… On February 6 he was diagnosed and transferred to Guy’s Hospital in London.

Before suggesting that:

It now seems likely that Walsh was not the UK’s “patient zero”. A month earlier, Susannah Ford… had fallen ill after flying back from a skiing holiday in Austria. [She] became ill on January 6, two days after her return from a new year trip.

Ford had spent a week in the resort of Obergurgl, near the Italian border, with her husband and two teenage daughters, flying back into Gatwick on January 4. She was the only one in the family who fell ill and assumed it was something she had picked up on an earlier trip to Trinidad.

Last week Ford paid for a test that shows whether the patient’s blood contains the antibodies that form when a person successfully fights off the disease. It came back positive, confirming that she had had Covid-19, although not when.“I’m convinced it’s when I was ill in January,” she said. “I can’t prove it was then but I haven’t been ill since or come into contact with people with it.”

Is there any advance on early January? Not as far as I am aware in the UK, but there have been several reports that European athletes who attended the Military World Games in Wuhan, China in October 2019 fell ill with symptoms resembling those of Covid-19.

According to an article in The Times on May 8th:

A French athlete who fell ill after competing in Wuhan in October says she has been told by doctors that Covid-19 was the likely cause of her ailment.The claim by Élodie Clouvel, an Olympic silver-winning pentathlete, has bolstered speculation that the coronavirus may have been present in the Chinese city several weeks before it was declared and then carried around the world by those who had taken part in an international competition there.

However according to the Global Times on February 24th:

A Wuhan hospital clarified the clinical diagnoses of five foreign athletes at the 7th CISM Military World Games held in Wuhan, Central China’s Hubei Province in October 2019, saying that they contracted malaria and were not infected by the novel coronavirus.

And what of the science? According to a paper published in “Infection, Genetics and Evolution” in early May:

We observe an estimated time to the Most Recent Common Ancestor, which corresponds to the start of the COVID-19 epidemic, of 6 October 2019–11 December 2019 (95% CIs). These dates for the start of the epidemic are in broad agreement with previous estimates performed on smaller subsets of the COVID-19 genomic data using various computational methods.

It seems that it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that several athletes brought the SARS-CoV-2 virus to Europe from Wuhan in late October 2019.

Categories
News

UK “Covid-19 Hypoxia” Trial Announced

According to an article by Emily Morgan on the ITV News web site:

A month ago Robert Peston and I highlighted the worrying condition known as ‘happy hypoxia’ which has been affecting thousands of coronavirus patients.

It has become apparent over the course of the pandemic that some patients appear absolutely fine and apparently not in distress but have oxygen levels so low they would normally be unconsciousness or even dead.

We highlighted it because medics raised the alarm that many people were getting to hospital too late and should be brought in much sooner.

We’d noticed the mention of what we called ‘Covid-19 hypoxia’ in the medical literature rather more than a month ago, which was one of the reasons why in the middle of April we applied to Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, for R&D funding to develop a “Covid-19 eHealth Data Acquisition Unit:

Today we are delighted to be able to announce that our application has been successful! We’ll be making a formal announcement in the near future, but getting back to Emily’s article for now:

NHS England told me exclusively they were looking at changing guidelines for 111 call handlers and they were looking at giving patients devices that could monitor their oxygen levels at home.

For the families of those who have died it was a small victory.

Today the NHS has made good its pledge to look at it.

A pilot is now underway in 11 hospital trusts where some Covid-19 patients and at risk patients are being given oximeters.

A “pulse oximeter” is one of the sensors we will be connecting to the “domestic” version of our Covid-19 data acquisition unit, which will use “Artificial Intelligence”, or perhaps more accurately “Machine Learning”, to infer the state of a person’s health from the information it receives from its assorted inputs.

Emily continues:

These are really simple devices which clip on your finger and give you a quick and easy reading of oxygen levels in your blood.

The results are pinged via an App back to doctors who can keep an eye on them.

It’s so simple and so clever that Dr Andy Barlow from Watford General Hospital says it will absolutely save lives.

Here’s a picture of one such “life saving” device:

A picture of our very own Covid-19 eHealth data acquisition unit will be available in due course!

Categories
News

UK Excess Deaths Due to Covid-19 Hypoxia?

The UK’s Office For National Statistics has just released a report which “Examines death registrations not involving coronavirus (COVID-19), to understand the apparent increase in deaths”. It nonetheless suggests that a significant number of the UK’s recent “excess deaths” that make no mention of Covid-19 on the death certificate might well have been caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. In section 5 concerning “Deaths due to dementia and Alzheimer disease” the ONS point out that:

The sudden rise in deaths due to dementia and Alzheimer disease is so sharp that it is implausible that the full increase observed could have happened by chance. The absence of large rises in deaths due to this cause that mention conditions that could exhibit similar symptoms to COVID-19 suggests that if COVID-19 is involved in the increase in deaths due to dementia and Alzheimer disease, the usual symptoms of COVID-19 were not apparent. This could fit with recent clinical observations, where atypical hypoxia has been observed in some COVID-19 patients. In someone with advanced dementia and Alzheimer disease, the symptoms of COVID-19 might be difficult to distinguish from their underlying illness, especially with the possibility of communication difficulties.

The terms “Covid-19 Hypoxia” and “silent hypoxia” have been used in the medical literature for quite some time, amongst other things to suggest that “overuse of intubation” for Covid-19 patients should be addressed.

We await further news on the attribution of UK deaths to the many effects of the SARS-Cov-2 virus with interest.

Categories
News

Covid-19 in the UK in June 2020

Today is a Tuesday, which means that The Office for National Statistics have just released their latest weekly “death certificate” data, which brings us up to May 22nd. The “main points” are:

  • A total of 43,837 deaths involving COVID-19 were registered in England and Wales between 28 December 2019 and 22 May 2020 (year to date).
  • In England, including deaths that occurred up to 22 May but were registered up to 30 May, of those we have processed so far, the number involving COVID-19 was 42,210; the comparative number of death notifications reported by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) on GOV.UK was 32,666 and NHS England numbers, which are deaths in hospitals only, showed 25,875 deaths.
  • In Wales, including deaths that occurred up to 22 May but were registered up to 30 May, of those we have processed so far, the number involving COVID-19 was 2,122; the comparative number of death notifications reported by the DHSC on GOV.UK was 1,260 and Public Health Wales (PHW) numbers, which come from the same source as the DHSC figures but are continuously updated, showed 1,275 deaths.
  • In England, the number of deaths involving COVID-19 in care homes that were registered by 22 May was 12,142, while in Wales the number of deaths was 591.
  • The Care Quality Commission (CQC) provides numbers of deaths involving COVID-19 in care homes in England that were notified between 10 April and 29 May, which showed 11,186 deaths, of which 531 occurred in the week up to 29 May.
  • The Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW) provides the number of deaths involving COVID-19 in care homes in Wales that occurred between 17 March and 29 May, which showed 462 deaths, of which 35 occurred in the week up to 29 May.

Here’s the “graphic” representation of those numbers:

Here is an alternative view on weekly “death occurrences in England and Wales” over recent years from EuroMOMO:

Publishing the number of death occurrences is outside EuroMOMO’s terms of reference, but their “Z-scores” provide a graphic illustration of how badly England in particular has been doing over the course of the 2020 Covid-19 epidemic.

[Edit – June 9th]

The latest weekly data from the ONS has been released:

  • The number of deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending 29 May 2020 (Week 22) was 9,824; this was 2,464 fewer than in Week 21 but 20.2% (1,653 deaths) higher than the five-year average.
  • Of the deaths registered in Week 22, 1,822 mentioned “novel coronavirus (COVID-19)”, the lowest number of deaths involving COVID-19 in the last eight weeks; this accounts for 18.5% of all deaths and is 767 deaths fewer than in Week 21.
  • People aged 90 years and over continued to have the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in Week 22.
  • In Week 22, the proportion of deaths occurring in care homes decreased to 25.5% while deaths involving COVID-19 as a percentage of all deaths in care homes decreased to 28.2%.
  • In Week 22, the number of deaths in care homes was 819 higher than the five-year average, while in hospitals the number of deaths was 30 fewer than the five-year average; the total number of excess deaths involving COVID-19 continued to decrease.

Here’s a graphic representation of the overall “excess death” numbers:

By way of explanation:

The number of deaths was around or below the five-year average up to Week 12. The number of deaths increased between Weeks 13 and 16 before decreasing between Weeks 17 and 22, with the exception of Week 20 where the deaths increased.

The number of death registrations in Week 20 was impacted by the early May Bank Holiday, which took place on Friday 8 May 2020 (in Week 19). The number of deaths registered on the early May Bank Holiday fell to 88 deaths compared with 2,950 deaths registered on the previous Friday (Friday 1 May 2020). Trends seen in Week 19 and Week 20 should therefore be interpreted with caution, as deaths not registered on the early May Bank Holiday were likely registered in the following week (Week 20). Week 22 also included the late May Bank Holiday but as this was on a Monday, we have seen less of an effect on death registrations.

The number of death registrations involving the coronavirus (COVID-19) decreased from 2,589 in Week 21 to 1,822 in Week 22. Of all deaths registered in Week 22, 18.5% mentioned COVID-19; this is down from 21.1% in Week 21.

Similar patterns can be seen for England and Wales separately, with the number of deaths in England decreasing from 11,586 in Week 21 to 9,228 in Week 22, which was 1,621 deaths higher than the Week 22 average. Of the Week 22 deaths, 18.6% (1,715 deaths) involved COVID-19 in England.

In Wales, the number of deaths decreased from 692 deaths in Week 21 to 587 deaths in Week 22, 41 deaths higher than the Week 22 average. Of these Week 22 deaths, 17.9% (105 deaths) involved COVID-19 in Wales.

[Edit – June 10th]

Today’s Downing Street Briefing was somewhat unusual. Boris Johnson was master of ceremonies, and what’s more he was accompanied by some scientists! Boris began by referring to “the progress we as a country have made against our 5 tests for adjusting lockdown”

Instead of listening to what was said, let’s take a look at some of the data that was referred to shall we?


The overall aim is evidently to “reduce the rate of infection to manageable levels” whilst “not risk[ing] a second peak of infections that overwhelms the NHS”. Boris hopes that the latest lockdown “adjustments” will be “underpinned by NHS Test and Trace”, so let’s also see how that’s coming along shall we? As luck would have it the Independent Sage committee also reported this yesterday:


Categories
News

UK Covid-19 Messaging – Episode 3

For previous episodes in our UK “Covid-19 messaging” series please click here.

Today’s Covid-19 headlines come to you via the Twitter feed of Allie Hodgkins-Brown. Compare and contrast the following front page “messages” from the Great British mainstream media: